Wednesday, January 20, 2010

On the H!P vs AKB debate...

I've been trying to avoid writing a post on this topic for a while now. It's an EXTREMELY touchy subject, and one that I get easily worked up about, so I figured it was best to stay out. However, there are some bloggers (some of who have been obviously pointing fingers at me) who've posted about the whole H!P vs AKB "war", and I feel the need to put in my two cents.

To begin, while I certainly have a strong dislike for's not the idols themselves, or AKB48 itself, or even AKB48 fans that I have a real problem with. "Personal preference" and "real issue" are different things, and I've mistakenly confused the two in the past...but I've come to realize the errors of my ways and, if people are willing to listen, I would like to make my current position clear. Actually, my problem isn't with anyone's fandom, but more with the foundation that most people in the community have laid their idol fandoms upon.

Now, to clarify something...everyone has to get into idols somehow, and almost every idol fan right now did that through H!P. Everybody has an exploratory phase where they find out what they like, and I'm totally down with that. My beef is with the people who were into H!P first, became serious fans, and then let that dedication fall through to another group without good reason (by the way, general disinterest is NOT a good reason :P).


The base of the issue, from what I've observed, is that many members of the community treat being into idol groups like it's the same as being into any other music...they feel that sampling as many different groups as possible and developing a varied set of interests is a part of being an idol fan or a wota. Now, in my opinion, people who are purely Japanese music enthusiasts can listen to whatever idol groups they want...they're not in it for the idols anyway. But anyone who calls themselves an idol fan or a wota and is into every group under the sun clearly doesn't understand how this whole thing is supposed to work.

That's not to say that they're WRONG, just...misinformed, I suppose. Many Western idol fans started as fans of anime or Japanese music or even just music in general (almost any hobby could be inserted here, honestly), where one risks being considered narrow-minded if he/she focuses exclusively on one series or musician or whatever. And when those people made the transition to the idol world, they carried that mentality with them. But the idol scene doesn't work that way...or, at least, it didn't until the Western world got ahold of it.

Of course, some people will say that this is our way of approaching it, we don't have to do it the way they do it in Japan, etc etc. Frankly, I disagree with that. While we could certainly continue on the same path (and likely will - I'm part of a minority with little say in the direction that the Western idol fandom takes), I don't feel that we have the right to twist the idol world around to fit our own way of doing things like that. In fact, through that, I think we risk aligning ourselves with a mindset that I'm sure most of us want nothing to do with.

Consider this: when H!P was in its prime there were lots of people who really liked Hello!Project that may have never been into idols otherwise - children, parents, girls, boys, etc. They really were a national idol group - such is the way popularity booms work. But those people were not wota, nor were they idol fans. Those people are now the ones who are unable to name a single current member of Morning Musume, who loved Hello!Project as a fad and dropped it like a bad habit when that fad ended. And guess what? Now those kind of people - the mainstream public - are starting to get into AKB48. You could say it's because AKB48 is the better idol group, or because they have better management with better knowledge on how to promote a group to mainstream success (both of which are points that could be debated, although the first is certainly more subjective than the second). But you want to know the real reason why? Because they're the public and they'll eat up whatever's in front of their faces.

When H!P's popularity had been waning for a while, AKB stepped up to the plate as the next big idol fad (not trying to bash on AKB here - H!P was just as much of a fad in the early 00's as AKB is now). What disappoints me with so many Western idol fans is that they made themselves no better than the mindless public. Instead of sticking by the idols they had grown to supposedly love and cherish over the years, they grew tired and jaded with the direction that H!P's music and image was taking - something that is completely out of the idols' control and should not affect the preferences of a truly dedicated fan. I know that my idols deserve my support regardless of how the company they're a part of may change over time. Anyway, H!P was beginning to wane in popularity...then AKB came along, a fresh new face to gain the interest of a group of people who had grown bored with a fad that was on its way out (or a fad that was essentially already gone, in the case of the Japanese public). It saddens and infuriates me to think that these girls who are so deserving of our love and dedication could be treated in such an impersonal manner, as if their lives as idols exist solely for our entertainment.

For the most part, the only ones who are still truly around for these girls are the wota. Say what you will about the wota (creepy, obsessive, etc), but H!P's survival for the last few years has depended heavily on a small but extremely dedicated fanbase of hardcore wota. And I know a lot of H!P fans are waiting for Morning Musume's next big break, for that magical moment where they become THE Japanese female idol super-group again and can stand on their own two feet (or, right now, 16 feet) without depending entirely on the wota. I hate to rain on the parade, but that's almost guaranteed not to happen. That's not really the way female idol groups work (any female idol group's explosive public success is almost always a fluke - LOVE Machine was H!P's, in my opinion), and popularity should not be a determining factor in sticking with your idols. I'm proud to call myself a wota because I avoided the temptation of new idol groups and am still supporting the idol company that I "grew up" on. My pride in being a dedicated wota is also why I get so agitated about careless use of the word wota, since not all Western idol fans have been as dedicated as I've come to understand wota to be.

Back to my original point...I'm of the opinion that the "general idol fan"/"expand your horizons"/"get into as many idol groups as possible" mentality encourages this kind of fickle idol fandom. If you spend your time devouring every idol group that even slightly catches your interest, how can you be sure that you won't unknowingly (or even knowingly -_-') abandon idols who still need you? In my opinion, the only point where an idol doesn't truly need her fans is when she has completely left the idol industry and started on a new path in her life. At that point, it is up to the individual to decide if their (now former) idols still need that kind of support.

And if this kind of dedication sounds intimidating...honestly, it should. Being a wota isn't easy. There have been many times where I've faced criticism (both from those within the idol community and those outside it) or felt a little overwhelmed or even depressed (although those are more tied to my choice not to date...if my idol can't do it, why should I). But think of how our idols must have felt when they first started. The stress and difficulty they've faced over the years has to have been so much worse than anything most of us normally deal with, and yet they still always come out smiling for their fans. I personally feel that it's an honor to face these difficulties for my idol's sake, and I think any true wota can empathize with that. Put simply, my idol is worth it.

And on the subject of "WHAT IF I WANT TO LISTEN TO MORE THAN JUST ONE IDOL GROUP, I LIKE OTHER MUSIC TOO ;_____;"...if you want to listen to other idol music, I don't think that in and of itself does any real harm. But, at least for someone like me, that's something to avoid. I value my dedication enough to not listen to any other idol groups. Not because I fear that my dedication isn't strong enough...I just don't even want to take that chance at all. Of course, that's something that each person has to decide for themselves.

And in all seriousness, I don't want to upset anyone through this. I'd rather encourage people to consider what the purpose of idols REALLY is and whether the choices they've made, or are making, or may make in the future, are what's best for their idols. As for what that is specifically? I think you can gather an idea of that from what I've said here...but perhaps I'll do a post on that in the future...

- cfb


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

being a wota is not a good thing TBQH

Zac said...

lol, thanks for the tip

CB said...

Great article, and I think the best one written so far on the whole H!P vs AKB debacle. I think you stated everything that needs to be said. For the record I am an H!P supporter.

ReiNya said...

"Put simply, my idol is worth it."



Valerie said...

I agree with almost everything on your post. People do change their tastes or fav groups from time to time, and even if we don't like it, they're also free to say whatever they want about them. Besides H!P, Hamasaki is the best example. Many people started with her, and moved onto another artist then. If you ask them, they'll say what many fans say about current H!P, that her voice is bad, her shows have been getting worse, etc. I personally think her last album sucked, but many new fans of her loved it. And I'm not sure if it's that the album was bad, or it's me, that just grew out of it.
I think the same goes with people that became AKB fans.

Now, about the popularity decline, there's a mexican wota that keeps insisting that the problem was the scandals that Momusu had through the years. They seriously damaged their public image, and TBH, I think he might be right?. I can understand japanese people and media not wanting to know anything about them :/, though I still have a hard time accepting it.

Zac said...

It was a combination of things, and the scandals certainly contributed. Sadly, all we can say for sure is that the glory days are over :/

Doesn't change my love for my idol in the least, but it is disappointing. At this point H!P supporters are rooting for the underdog. Of course, there's some enjoyment to be had in that, especially when you got into something before it really reached "underdog status".

Still, my one and only priority in this is doing all I can to support my idol. Everything else is just icing on the cake, so to speak.

Laina Lee said...

I... okay. I agree with a lot of your points and disagree with a lot of them as well. Since I usually run my mouth too much, I'll try and keep my comment relatively short.

Basically, there's one point that I just really want to comment on. When you said, ". . . as if their lives as idols exist solely for our entertainment".
Hahaha. Ohhhhh honey. Their lives as idols DO exist solely for our entertainment. Why do you think it's called the entertainment business. That's why H!P exists at all. That's why they're HERE.
Do I agree with the first part of what you said? Completely. I'm not just into their image, I'm into them as people and I love them and dedicate my own life to them. But it seems like you've misunderstood their purpose. They're. Here. To. Entertain. You.

The fact that you are so dedicated and intelligent, yet you can't come to terms with the fact that yes, they're only here for peoples' entertainment (and money for companies like UFA and H!P, and people like Tsunku), shows a little bit of ignorance.

That's all I really wanna say. I know this is old, but I had to put my two cents in. <3

Zac said...

@Laina Lee
Sorry for the long comment lol

Honestly, it's hard to respond to you and still be honest without coming off harshly, so I suppose this will be a bit blunt at points.

I never said idols don't exist for our entertainment, at least to an extent (hence why I used the word "solely" - perhaps I should have put more emphasis on that). However...I feel that, once a person finds *that idol* it should be less about entertainment and more about trying to do what's best for her. I'm certainly not into this because "omg fun music and cute girls yayyyyyyy" like I was at first.

My biggest issue with this community is that most everyone seems to stay at that level where it's all about the fun and entertainment...whereas I did my research and found out what being a serious idol fan is like in the place that idols originated - Japan, obviously. And that is, of course, the wota. And not only did I do my research, I did (and am still doing) my best to follow that example.

I am now 100% about supporting Ai in every way I can, regardless of what other idols or idol groups pop up and regardless of how unpopular Morning Musume and/or Hello!Project may become...until the bitter end, so to speak (with some special exceptions...I used to be completely dedicated to Mikitty, then she obviously got married and I was forced to move on - for more details on why, best description of wota I've come across is here if you haven't read it: Supporting your idol is what being a wota is about, and if I have to make sacrifices in my connections to the community defending what I feel to be the right way then so be it (sorry lol, getting a little too personal about this, tried not to do that in the article and am obviously failing here -_-).

Anyway...since writing this, I've had some conversations that have really driven home for me just how little most of the Western community cares about staying in touch with the way idol fandom works in Japan. It's a shame, really. And I could easily see a divide in the community at some point, between the few people like myself and the majority of the Western community (you could even say that divide already exists...although most of the people like me tend to keep to themselves lol). And, actually, I suppose that's fine. Better than everyone trying to get along and act as if it's all dandy when, at least for me and those like me, it's not. I've pretty much given up on trying to get other people to understand and respect my approach :/

So, about the entertainment, money, etc thing. In short, yeah the idol industry itself is indeed about making money and is a part of the entertainment industry...but why should that make any difference? Between idol and wota, dedication and support are key. For Western wota...entertainment may be the gateway, but once you come to learn how idol fandom REALLY works entertainment should take several steps down in priority. At least, the time I've spent doing my best to emulate Japanese wotadom has brought me to that conclusion.

Laina Lee said...

FFFFF sorry I took forever and a day to reply to this. I totally forgot I commented on this at all until I stumbled upon your blog again while looking up H!P merchandise (which I always seem to do, byyyy the way pffff).

LOL long comment is fine. C: Also, coming off harshly is also fine. I was a huge dick in my comment, so it's all good. |D

OKAY so you cleared up a lot for me. I thought you just. Didn't think they were at all. It was a little confusing and odd to me, which was why I commented. Although I could've said it in a much nicer way, so sorry about that.

I agree with you wholeheartedly, actually. I'm a new H!P fan in general (I got into it during 2009, so I'm realllly really new), so I can't call myself a wota yet. I haven't found *that* idol quite yet, but I'm waiting to find her, I guess you could say. I'm a devoted H!P fan... but not quite the wota yet.

So, I'm not a wota, but I respect them. They can be crazy at times, but really, they're what keeps the girls going, so I have to respect them haha. I really agree with that blogpost 100%, and it truly is the best description of a wota I've ever heard.

I think that the divide is very visible already--the Western fandom works a lot differently from the Japanese fandom. I myself am currently in the middle of this. I really love connecting with idols and I but I still have a Western mindset. Except recently, I think I had my first wotaish experience while watching Buono! live. But I've digressed.

Reading your comment was really interesting, and I'm glad you responded. I say again, I'm not really a wota right now, but I have a feeling I'll be headed there soon lmao. Thanks for your input, it was lovely. c:

Anonymous said...

Just another butthurt H!P fan grasping at straws to defend his comatose fandom. Nothing what you wrote made sense.

Zac said...

lol, nice trollface. Go back to Stage48.

Anonymous said...

Is Hello! Project a religion to you or something? Fuck man. Go outside and get a life.

I mean you'd THINK I was a huuuge AKB48 wota just by participating answering your stupid flame, but I think I'm a pretty average wota. I support them in buying their singles (probably the number one most important indicator to a singing idol group on their popularity) and pick up some odds and ends every once in a while like Photobooks and a bazillion Calendars.

But the thing about it is, I have interests outside of AKB.

I love Ikimonogakari, Namie Amuro, Koda Kumi and all the like. In terms of my "lost" period where I rejected Hello! Project between 2005-2008 I didn't listen to AKB48. They didn't "steal" me as a fan. H!P just bored the shit out of me and their songs were really crappy. My definition of a so-so song: "A song that you need to listen to 5 or more times before you begin to like it" my definition of a bad song? "A song you can't even listen to 5 times, let alone more"

From 2005-Onward I could not bear to listen to anything H!P related for more than one round.

So for about 3-4 years I was completely content with not having to deal with Idol crap. Attack All Around was pumping out some damned fine singles, BoA had some awesome releases. I bought them all. It was great. I didn't miss anything about H!P.

The crazy thing about it is, I'm betting that YOU aren't much of an H!P Wota. Back when I ran the mm-bbs there were a metric shit ton of people like you, who acted as if we owed our lives to H!P and that listening to anything else, and that not standing for the shit H!P was producing was blasphemy. These are the same people who didn't ACTUALLY support H!P, rarely bought singles "Unless it was good enough" and never bought DVD releases because it was silly to buy something FOR FREE

So I can completely imagine you clutching on to maybe 5 or 6 singles you bought (at great expense to you.. MIGHT I ADD) and maybe a photobook claiming that you're such a great fan. You know what? It's not MY fault they suck. It's YOURS. If they really were so great their fuckin' fans would have stayed with them and listened to them alongside AKB48. As if people had such a limited budget they couldn't afford a single on something they enjoyed every 3 months.

Every single I like, I purchase because that's my way of showing support. Not whining about "traitors".. however I will whine about plenty of other things!


Zac said...

"So I can completely imagine you clutching on to maybe 5 or 6 singles you bought (at great expense to you.. MIGHT I ADD) and maybe a photobook claiming that you're such a great fan."
Clearly you haven't looked at my blog very hard...

Weak trolling, my friend. Very weak.

Anonymous said...

I found this particular qoute interesting.

"(by the way, general disinterest is NOT a good reason :P)"

I imagine (feel free to correct me if you disagree) that you're basically saying we're not allowed to like akb48 because we once had a dedication to h!p. In a way, you're also saying that all of those millions upon millions of h!p's former fans in Japan should not have been allowed to move on due to their "disinterest".

I also find your sweeping generalizations of how people became interested in akb and h!p in the first place... interesting. For one, it's not really about the music for many of us anyway.

As for this:

[I'm of the opinion that the "general idol fan"/"expand your horizons"/"get into as many idol groups as possible" mentality encourages this kind of fickle idol fandom. If you spend your time devouring every idol group that even slightly catches your interest, how can you be sure that you won't unknowingly (or even knowingly -_-') abandon idols who still need you?]

Many of these former h!p fans you speak of were h!p fans many years and have bought hundreds, even thousands of dollars worth of h!p goods to support their idols. Yet, over the years UFA has showed less and less care about giving the fans the quality they deserve after their years of suporting them. Instead, Up-front saw that there was a small group of fans (around 30k) who would be willing to buy whatever UFA put out. They saw that they could cut exspenses and still make a profit. All they had to do was film a close-up of Ai and Sayumi on a couch in a chicken outfit and the fans would eat it up. They told Takahashi to make some grunts and Reina to screech at the top of her lungs, and these same fans would say "OMG THIS IS AMAZING!!!!".

You talk of h!p girls as if they're still the same generation that everyone fell in love with. As if they're the same girls who were dancing to "renai revolution" and singing "the peace". They're not.

I may not like them, but I'm actually not here to rag on the current girls of "morning musume" or their fans. Infact, I have no problem with their fans liking the idols they want to like. MM girls aren't goddesses who deserve our unquestioned support, especially as they're not even the girls whom many of us liked. Those girls are gone already.

My point is that you act as though h!p fans are the underdogs and that akb48 fans only like the group "because they're the public and they'll eat up whatever's in front of their faces." H!P has only been the underdog since late 2008, just over a year and a half. Many AKB fans were fans before that, when AKB48 were the underdogs and many h!p fans where ragging on akb for being a lesser group, as if the idols were inferior in some way.

You don't have to agree with me or other AKB fans. I'm only giving an opinion of a different side.

"Weak trolling, my friend. Very weak."

Someone takes the time to respond with valid and well thought out points and all you can do is go through their response to nitpick one minor flaw, while disregarding the rest of the entire well written comment. Are you looking for a variety of opinions, or would you rather everyone just agree with your logic?

Zac said...

First of all, I want to say thank you for stating your opinions semi-reasonably and rationally. I only disregarded the previous person's comments because, frankly, they sounded like a troll, just trying to get a reaction out of me, and I wasn't going to give that kind of bullshit a decent response.

And second of all, a lot of my views on this stuff have changed in the months since I wrote this.

"I imagine (feel free to correct me if you disagree) that you're basically saying we're not allowed to like akb48 because we once had a dedication to h!p."
At the time, I did feel that way. But I'm beginning to understand now, as I shift further into being just an Ai wota and not simply an H!P/MM fan, that it was perfectly reasonable for those people who loved older generations of MM to move on from the group. Because really, it's not the same group anymore, or even close (and I'm not talking about just members - I mean music, image, the whole package has changed)...and if/when Ai leaves MM I'm honestly not sure if I'll be able to stick with the group myself (although she really loves Morning Musume and I hope I can keep my love for the group alive out of respect for her ;___;). I'll cross that bridge when I get to it.
However...personally, from the knowledge I have of AKB, I can't understand why someone who enjoys H!P's style of idol groups would want to get into AKB48 (I'll keep the reasons to myself, as I'm sure you've heard them all before). That is purely opinion though, and I've never met a single person who "made the switch" whose approach to idols I can agree I guess it's just a difference in tastes or personality type or something.

But getting to the real heart of the statements about the "general idol fan" approach were pointed at a specific group of people, who feel that you can be into H!P and AKB and k-pop and whichever other idol groups and still consider yourself a wota. The AKB vs H!P part tied in because many of the "general idols fans" I knew, who started out with H!P and branched out into other idol companies, ended up mostly into AKB or k-pop...and honestly, AKB became the scapegoat in my entry because H!P vs AKB has been the BIG BATTLE forever, but k-pop is just as popular, if not moreso, right now. I would like to think that people who see that switch happening, and who REALLY love an idol or group under H!P, would be willing to stick purely to H!P so as not to risk that kind of thing.
Still, that doesn't really apply to people who lost interest in H!P years ago and got into AKB later like yourself. You could consider this entry a warning to the "general idol fan" types of what could happen if they're not careful...although it seems most of them weren't exactly receptive haha. What a shock :|

"Up-front saw that there was a small group of fans (around 30k) who would be willing to buy whatever UFA put out. They saw that they could cut exspenses and still make a profit."
To that whole spiel...clearly UFA has gotten QUITE lazy takes a lot to make me bitch about my idol's releases, but I'm noticing them cutting corners in ways that honestly piss me off. Still, UFA isn't the one I care about. That would be Ai, and regardless of how shitty UFA gets I'll be sticking with her. That's the kind of dedication I expect out of someone who claims to be a wota...and a big reason as to why I wrote this entry in the first place. It's crappy to generalize, but much of the Western idol fanbase seems to have a serious lack of dedication in that sense.

But really, this entry was kind of my last hurrah to this whole argument. I've been perfectly happy the last few months not having to deal with this debate and I find it a little odd that these comments are suddenly popping up now. Honestly, I just want to support Aichan in peace -_____-

yonasu said...

Honestly I couldn't care less about the agencies behind the idols. I like certain idols of H!P, and I like certain idols in AKB, they live together in harmony in my world. But my favorites are from H!P and that will never change since they've had many years to grow on me.

My all time favorite is Eri Kamei, and whatever happens to H!P she will always remain my favorite^^ And my favorite from AKB is Atsuko Maeda (although she might not even make the top 10 of my overall idol faves). I consider myself an Eri wota, I guess, but really I don't need a title, I just care about loving whoever I love :) People are free to hate on me and the idols I love, I really couldn't care less about that either, haha.

In the end, this discussion is really the same stupid thing as arguing about Windows and OS X. Just use and love whatever you love, why should you care about what someone else likes? It doesn't make any sense.

Peace out.

maiZe said...

Blogger won't let me post the whole thing in one comment... excuse the wall of text.

The only reason why I came into this post again was because you tweeted it... If you wanted it over and done with, tweeting is definitely not the way to make it forgotten. -_-; (Also, if you blog about it, you can't be surprised if you get random comments popping up 1 month, 6 months or even a year later. As a specific example, a post I wrote up on IW regarding melody. and Miyavi getting married continues to get the random comments of people saying how he just knocked her up or that she's gonna ruin him or some crap like that, even though it happened ages ago).

I've talked with you about this before, but you said in your February 7th comment: "I've pretty much given up on trying to get other people to understand and respect my approach :/" If you want people to respect your approach of being a fan, you need to respect theirs as well.

You know me. I am a H!P fan. I have no desire to get into AKB. I have been a solid supporter of Aichan since 2001 (well, more likely since early 2002 when I heard her sing in Souda! We're Alive). But I love Risa as well, and I love Miya, Airi, Maimi and Chisa. I am in H!P for the music, as well as the quirky personailites of the girls when I watch other videos. But even though you never go at me since I am a fan of Aichan, as I read this article of yours, even though I haven't jumped the H!P ship, and I really have no desire to switch fandoms (though I am treading slowly into the Arashi fandom - but they're boys and that's a completely different story. XD), I still feel like you're attacking my own fandom and saying that I'm not a good enough fan. I have no desire to limit myself to one girl. I'm even hardpressed to solidly say that Aichan is my #1 girl, 'cause her and Risa are both so close to my top (though, I'd give the edge to Aichan if I had to because I've loved her longer).

maiZe said...

Continuing on:

My view on all of this is that you're expecting ALL fans of idol music to be wota. And that may be the fault of International Wota having the word "wota" in it's title. You'd have to take that up with Ray, the founding father of IW. I have noticed that a lot of your ire has been directed to IW staff, bloggers featured on IW and wotachatters. Really, most of the people on IW are, as I said, fans of idol music (and in addition, the idols whose faces/voices go with the music). The vast majority of us are NOT wota according to your definition. I will not apologize for that, and I guess I can understand why our name bothers you, but I'm not going to change the name of a blog that has been around for over 3 years (and the .com of it as well) because our name doesn't sit well with you.

I don't believe there's a problem with being a fan of the music. I refuse to buy music that doesn't interest me. I refuse to waste my money on something that I don't enjoy/will never listen to or use. I have too many other interests (most of which aren't cheap, ex. electronics, musical instruments, travelling - planning to go to Japan for the summer concert this August) to not be picky about what I buy. If I was a multi-millionaire, then that would be another story. Really, with your comments about people being mindless and jumping to the AKB bandwagon because they're what's more readily accessible to the public right now... Buying music/merchandise just because an agency put a particular person's face/name to it, no matter how low quality/sucky/overpriced/useless the item might be.... Well, I don't know how you can't call that mindless. I don't mean to be rude there, but calling all these other fans mindless is rude in the first place.

Feel free to not reply to this post (though I do hope you read it at least), since you said that last one was your final post on this. Obviously, after reading your thoughts and talking with you about your own fandom, I don't hold your views against you, and I respect that you have such dedication to Aichan. But I don't think it's right to insist that others adopt the same view as you, and to make us feel like we're being subpar fans by not having the same single-minded dedication that you have.

Zac said...

I ended up using my response to your comment as a post:

Hopefully that clears some things up. I'm trying, really...

Unknown said...
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Rudy said...

Dude, you're a faggot.

Anonymous said...


harada57 said...
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